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Firefight in Yemen

Aired February 13, 2002 - 14:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Overseas now, CNN's Brent Sadler is in the country of Yemen with some breaking news surrounding the al Qaeda network. Brent, what do you have for us?

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Bill, reports coming out in the past few minutes that there's been a firefight in the center Sanaa, between Yemeni security forces and a member, they say, of the al Qaeda terrorist network. Now, an official statement from the security sources here in the capital, Sanaa, say that an al Qaeda suspect by the name of Samir Ahmad Mohammed al-Hadda (ph), a 25-year- old Yemeni, was being encircled by Yemeni security forces within the past hour or so. I'm now being told, in a house in the poor area of the downtown Sanaa.

And as they were approaching, they came under gunfire from the house. Fire was returned. And then several minutes later they followed a man who had jumped into a taxi. And when they tried to stop that taxi and apprehend the man, he pulled out a grenade, which reportedly detonated, and blew himself up, before security sources could make their move to arrest him.

Now, this has to be set in the context of Yemeni attempts over many, many months now to capture several leading al Qaeda terror suspects thought to be hiding out in this country. We do understand from Yemeni security sources here -- this is very early in this breaking news -- that this man, Samir Ahmad Mohammed al-Hadda (ph), was one of the important people, one of the key people on a list of al Qaeda terror suspects that had been passed from the Americans to the Yemeni authorities.

So, a firefight -- just to recap -- a brief firefight in the center of Sanaa, an explosion as a grenade went off when a suspected al Qaeda terrorist was blown up, as Yemeni security forces tried to arrest him. Back to you, Bill.

HEMMER: Brent, quickly, before we get back to the White House, the terror alert that came out of the U.S. on Monday night involved 13 names, many of whom came from Yemen. Is this completely and totally separate from the list of names who were given on Monday night, the matter you're talking about?

SADLER: Yes, this is not directly connected to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But I understand from security sources here that this man, who died as a result of his own grenade, is wanted in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole, the American warship that lost 17 lives back in October, 2000. But you have to look at the various groupings of people here who are wanted.

There are two top al Qaeda suspects who have been the subject of a manhunt here for the past several weeks. This man, who was named several months ago by the U.S. administration to the Yemeni authorities, wanted in connection with Cole bombing -- as two other al Qaeda suspects that have been the subject of this big manhunt -- and indeed, this Fawaz al-Rabeei, another top al Qaeda official who has been put on that FBI terror alert list for a possible strike against Yemen or targets in United States.

So it's very complicated. But just to boil this down very briefly, what we have is Yemeni security forces moving against a known location, and this is very important. They've actually, they say, managed to pinpoint an al Qaeda hideout. They approached that hideout. They received outgoing fire from that house. They returned fire. And in the chase and in the confusion of the darkness, as it is here, a grenade was pulled by this al Qaeda terror suspect, and who died as a result of his own explosive device.

And the security sources here, Yemeni officials, saying that he was a very important al Qaeda suspect, wanted, they say, in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole, and one of the top people on the U.S. list of terror suspects hear in Yemen.

HEMMER: All right, got it. Brent, listen, we'll cut you loose. And when you get more information, certainly check back with us here. Brent Sadler on the telephone there, from the country of Yemen, the city of Sanaa. We will certainly keep track of what's happening there.

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